Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy & Transport & Rural Affairs Colin Smyth has said the Scottish Government is “stuck in the slow lane” when it comes to public transport smart ticketing.

Speaking during a Scottish Parliament debate on the climate emergency, the local MSP said that Scotland should be looking to introduce an integrated smart ticket system, making it cheaper and easier for people to use public transport.

Speaking in the debate, Colin Smyth said: “It is more than 100 days since Scotland welcomed the world to COP26. The generation-defining decisions that were made there barely keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C that was agreed in Paris a decade ago.

“The task for the Glasgow summit was to set out credible plans to deliver a 50 per cent cut in global emissions by 2030. Although it made modest progress, it was largely a missed opportunity, with climate delay when we really needed climate delivery.

“Transport is still the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland, being responsible for more than a third of the total, yet the Scottish Government has just hiked up rail fares by record levels and it is pressing ahead with cutting ticket offices and axing 90,000 train services a year.

“We are still waiting for the Government to give councils the powers to run their own local bus services, a provision that I secured in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 more than two years ago, never mind the smart ticketing that was promised more than a decade ago.

“Delegates who went to COP26 in Glasgow benefited from smart integrated ticketing, but commuters going to their work do not benefit from that. It is not good enough to deliver smart ticketing for international visitors when the people of Scotland cannot have it. Nicola Sturgeon promised Scotland the saltire card in 2012. Ten years on, all that the Government has delivered is a consultation on setting up a committee.”

Colin Smyth continued: “Scotland needs Oyster card-style ticketing more than ever to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for commuters to travel on buses, trains, trams, the subway and ferries, but the Government is stuck in the slow lane when it comes to smart ticketing.

“When the minister sums up, I hope that she will name the date when Scotland’s commuters will stop being left behind the rest of the world and actually get a single national smart card.

“The Scottish Government has had 10 years to think about it, but I do not know whether I am going to get my bus pass or my smart card first. I fear that it will be the former.”

In 2012, Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first minister at the time, announced plans for the ‘Saltire Card’ – a Scotland-wide travel smartcard to be used across the public transport networks. “The Saltire Card will be a hugely exciting development for transport in Scotland and will help us achieve a truly world-class public transport network,” she said, launching the scheme at the Scottish Cities Forum. It was said that the card, which money could be pre-loaded onto, would make it “cheaper and easier for people to get around on trains, buses, ferries, subway and trams across the country”. But the scheme has since fallen by the wayside.


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